When Pope Benedict XVI gave us the Ordinariate, one of the items included in that gift-basket was the restoration of the Feast of the Ascension to its actual day. We read in the Acts of the Apostles;
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God” (1:1ff)
Historically, the Church always celebrated this feast 40 days after Easter Day, meaning Ascension Day always fell on a Thursday, because it really did occur 40 days after Our Lord’s resurrection.
The Ordinariate restores to us the gift of the obligation to assist at Mass on Ascension Day, always a Thursday, which this year falls on May 25th.
Now, you might wonder: how is this a gift? Because, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that it’s easier for the God’s people to celebrate this feast on Sunday and, as it were, “kill two obligation with one stone.” And from a certain perspective, we are correct in thinking it a burden to be obligated to attend Mass on a Thursday. But from another perspective, we can see that the obligation the Church puts on us to attend Mass on Ascension Day as a opportunity for Our Lord to demonstrate His love for us. All of the obligations the Church puts upon us are opportunities for us to give back the gifts that our merciful and ever-giving God already and freely gave to us.
Attending Mass on Ascension Day, May 25, is obligatory for members of the Ordinariate. While members don’t have to attend our St. Joseph of Arimathea community’s Mass offered that day at Holy Rosary at 7:30pm (though we would certainly enjoy having a good turn out that evening!), Ordinariate members are under obligation to assist at Mass that day at some Catholic church.